Peninsula voters wary of legal pot

  • By DAN BALMER
  • Wednesday, November 5, 2014 10:11pm
  • NewsCannabis

It appears the third time is the charm for Alaskans’ bid to legalize marijuana.

After failed voter initiatives in 2000 and 2004, on Tuesday Alaskans voted 52 percent in favor of the legalization for the recreational use of marijuana. Alaska joins Oregon, which passed a similar pot measure Tuesday. Washington and Colorado became the first two states to legalize marijuana last year.

While absentee ballots remain to be counted, the yes votes hold a 9,624-vote lead.

The passage of Ballot Measure 2 allows the state to tax and regulate the production, sale and use of marijuana. Possession would be legal for those 21 years old and older. The initiative states marijuana would be regulated and taxed like alcohol.

Election results from the Kenai Peninsula show the borough was split on the issue. The more populated central region opposed the measure. More voters in the north and central peninsula voted no, while the southern peninsula and east voted for legalization.

District 29, which includes Sterling, Nikiski, Salamatof, Cooper Landing and Seward narrowly voted against marijuana legalization with 2789 against to 2639 votes in favor.

District 30, the central peninsula region, voted 54 percent against the measure. The southern peninsula, or district 31, received 54 percent in support of the initiative.

Soldotna resident Mike Hill said he thought the measure would pass.

His wife, Angela Hill said she was concerned about how pot would be regulated.

“It had to pass before the state could figure out how to regulate it,” Mike Hill said. “The drug war wasn’t working. We might as well try something else. If it doesn’t work down the road, we can go back.”

Once the election is certified, the initiative will not become law for 90 days. Then the state can create a marijuana control board under the direction of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. The board will have nine months to develop regulations to control marijuana business operations.

Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl said until the measure becomes a law, at an undetermined date next year, marijuana use is still illegal and police will still enforce the present law.

“We will adapt to the laws,” he said.

Kalie Klaysmat, the executive director with the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police, said she was disappointed with the result. She said it was encouraging to see many people in the Kenai Peninsula have the same concerns.

“I’m proud of everyone who voted against legalization in the interest of public safety,” she said. “We will continue to speak up about the risks we see and hopefully others will do the same as we figure out how to properly regulate it.”

Kenai district No. 1 was the only precinct in district 30 to vote yes on measure 2 with 514 yes votes to 436. Soldotna voters cast 882 no votes to 699 yes.

Voters in the central Kenai Peninsula expressed a variety of concerns on marijuana legalization from increased regulatory costs and if it would affect the economy and work productivity.

Sterling resident Cynthia Wellman said she voted against marijuana legalization because the measure didn’t answer all her questions on how it was going to be regulated.

“Too many unresolved questions,” she said. “Look at Colorado and the problems they are having. It needs to be reworked.”

Opponents of the measure pointed to increased expense to law enforcement it would take to regulate marijuana dispensaries. Klaysmat said the state estimated the measure could increase the cost to small towns by $6 million.

Todd Hansen, of Sterling, said while he understands the health benefits associated with marijuana, he thought it would have a negative effect on the economy with the potential for unemployment and welfare to rise.

“It makes people not want to do anything and it creates a bigger burden on taxpayers,” he said.

Sterling resident Tom Hubbard agreed.

“The working people and tax payers are the ones paying the bills around here and the people that smoke pot don’t want to pay any bills they just want to go to the post office and collect a check,” he said.

Voters in Kasilof favored legalization. Anchor Point was the only southern peninsula region to vote against the measure. The measure also passed in Seward.

Kasilof resident Michael Bishop said it is about time marijuana is legal in the state. Since Ravin v. State allowed personal pot use in the privacy of the home in 1975, this decision has been a long time coming, he said.

“Get the government off our backs and out of our lives,” he said. “You can’t overdose on it. I’d rather let kids stay home and smoke pot than drink beer.”

Brenda Quinn, of Soldotna, said she voted to legalize pot because the system in place isn’t working. She said she is not pro-marijuana and has a teenage daughter. The bill would prohibit the sale to minors.

“It is costing billions of dollars that could be better spent elsewhere,” she said. “I don’t think people base their decision to smoke marijuana whether it’s legal or illegal. It’s a moral issue.”

Klaymat said the association would form a task force and look for ways to find money to fund police training and learn how to “cope with the repercussions” that could result with marijuana legalization.

She said the national trend of marijuana legalization is credit to the strategy used by the Marijuana Policy Project, she said.

“Their playbook is to use distraction and the public seems to feel their arguments are valid,” she said. “Time will tell. … Our agencies will respond and keep the community as safe as possible.”

 

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com

More in News

Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer; Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna; Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak and Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, spoke to reporters Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, immediately following Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s State of the State address. Members of the Senate Republican leadership said they appreciated the governor’s optimism, and hoped it signaled a better relationship between the administration and the Legislature. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Lawmakers welcome tone change in governor’s address

With caveats on financials, legislators optimistic about working together

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID deaths, hospitalizations climb statewide

The total number of statewide COVID deaths is nearly equivalent to the population of Funny River.

A fisher holds a reel on the Kenai River near Soldotna on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Restrictions on sport fishing announced

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced summer sport fishing regulations Wednesday

Community agencies administer social services to those in need during the Project Homeless Connect event Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘It’s nice to be able to help folks’

Project Homeless Connect offers services, supplies to those experiencing housing instability

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce attends the March 2, 2021, borough assembly meeting at the Betty J. Glick Assembly Chambers at the Borough Administration Building in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former talk-show host to manage Pierce gubernatorial campaign

Jake Thompson is a former host of KSRM’s Tall, Dark and Handsome Show and Sound-off talk-show

Deborah Moody, an administrative clerk at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Anchorage, Alaska, looks at an oversized booklet explaining election changes in the state on Jan. 21, 2022. Alaska elections will be held for the first time this year under a voter-backed system that scraps party primaries and sends the top four vote-getters regardless of party to the general election, where ranked choice voting will be used to determine a winner. No other state conducts its elections with that same combination. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
How Alaska’s new ranked choice election system works

The Alaska Supreme Court last week upheld the system, narrowly approved by voters in 2020.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to a joint meeting of the Alaska State Legislature at the Alaska State Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, for his fourth State of the State address of his administration. Dunleavy painted a positive picture for the state despite the challenges Alaska has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the economy. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Gov points ‘North to the Future’

Dunleavy paints optimistic picture in State of the State address

A COVID-19 test administrator discusses the testing process with a patient during the pop-up rapid testing clinic at Homer Public Health Center on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Free rapid COVID-19 testing available in Homer through Friday

A drive-up COVID-19 testing clinic will be held at Homer Public Health Center this week.

In this Sept. 21, 2017, file photo, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks at a rally in Montgomery, Ala. Palin is on the verge of making new headlines in a legal battle with The New York Times. A defamation lawsuit against the Times, brought by the brash former Alaska governor in 2017, is set to go to trial starting Monday, Jan. 24, 2022 in federal court in Manhattan. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
Palin COVID-19 tests delay libel trial against NY Times

Palin claims the Times damaged her reputation with an opinion piece penned by its editorial board

Most Read